A Virginia couple whom President Reagan accused last year of cheating on federal disability payments after the two were featured by a Washington television station as victims of his economic policies, have been arrested on felony charges of welfare fraud.
A Spotsylvania County judge has ordered Stuart and Winona Kindrick held on charges that they illegally received $652.12 in welfare benefits from the county from March to May of last year. The charges, which grow out of a lump sum payment they received about the time of Reagan's remarks, carry maximum sentences of up to 20 years in jail.
Assistant Spotsylvania prosecutor William Neely also alleged in court that the Kindricks forged Social Security documents in an attempt to hide how much federal disability money they were receiving, so that they could continue to receive county welfare benefits.
The Kindricks, who lived in the Fredericksburg area at the time the president made his remarks and have since moved to the nearby town of Bowling Green, could not be reached for comment. They were released on bond, county officials said.
General District Judge Joseph L. Savage Jr. Monday ordered the couple to submit handwriting samples to compare with the allegedly forged documents, despite objections from the couple's attorney, Robert Brooks.
Neely said in an interview yesterday that the attention focused on the couple by Reagan and the media had "nothing to do with this case. We're trying to treat them just like everyone else."
Last March, Reagan began criticizing news coverage of his economic policies, and in particular, pointed to a WRC-TV report on the plight of Stuart Kindrick, a sheet-metal worker who had suffered brain damage and partial paralysis after a Northern Virginia industrial accident in 1975.
Kindrick lost his Social Security disability benefits in 1981, and it was reported that the cutoff was the result of Reagan cuts. Reagan disagreed, charging that the man had lost his benefits because he had been working and was a cheat.
Kindrick denied the charges. WRC later said that the cuts were due, not to Reagan changes, but to revisions in Social Security laws and regulations made during the Carter administration. Kindrick, meanwhile, was restored to the disability rolls just days before Reagan made his statement.
Neely alleged that the Kindricks received a lump sum payment of $1,600 in March, which they should have reported to the county welfare office. The amount would have disqualified them from receiving aid for dependent children, food stamps and Medicaid.
Neely said they notified the welfare office in May that federal disability payments would resume in June, but Neely alleged that they failed to mention the earlier money. He charged that they also submitted three forged documents to support their case.